A note of caution on the much-hyped “other race speech” out tonight at the Daily Caller, Drudge, and Hannity: It looks bad for Obama, but it’s not worth going overboard. I tip my hat to Tucker Carlson for digging this up, and to Hannity for giving it an airing. But I have now watched the whole speech while comparing it to the “prepared remarks.” And, while it is clear there is a more racial subtext, largely through tone and accent and body language, than there already was in an edgy-but-not-totally-over-the-edge prepared text, there are only two places where Obama’s ad libs were truly objectionable. One was in reference to my great hometown of New Orleans, and it is deservedly getting attention both because Obama’s claims were either downright false or wholly misleading and also because he hinted (but, note, did not actually say) that New Orleans was getting treated differently for racial reasons. It was obnoxious — but not as obnoxious as Carlson and Hannity made it out to be, not when in total context. The second was in a gratuitous addition, after saying that “America will survive,” of the words “black folks will survive.” Indeed, it was one of the only explicit mention of race, and it was race-baiting, pure and simple — but also brief, and not pounded home in a hateful way.
Other than that, I thought the speech was the usual mix of leftist claptrap with some banalities and some points that were well aimed and expressed. Yes, if a white politician had suddenly started sounding “rednecky” while talking to a white rural crowd, and had combined it with a text as racially edgy in the “white” direction as Obama did in the “black” direction, it would have been treated as a major racial scandal because it would have been assumed the intent itself was to foster race hatred. On the other hand, certain allowances for edginess always have been allowed to black speakers before black audiences — a slight double standard, to be sure, but one that slavery and Jim Crow provide at least semi-reasonable excuses for, and one that is less damaging than actual policies (quotas, etcetera) that enshrine discrimination into law.
Even allowing for the double standard, I think Obama went over the line. But it wasn’t so far over the line that it’s an obvious slam-dunk to, say, a 30-year-old single professional woman in a Cincinnati suburb. But if conservatives go overboard in talking about it, without other context, the Cincy woman could react AGAINST the right for making her confront something she doesn’t want to confront, that upsets her own internal narrative about who Obama is without quite providing enough evidence to fully overcome that narrative. It’s the blame-the-messenger syndrome about which we must beware.
Now, in light of all sorts of other, wholly legitimate, issues involving the Obama team’s approach to racial matters, this example if put into sober and proper context might actually change the mind, in our direction, of that proverbial Cincy single. But our tone must not be shrill — and we can’t rely on this video alone, because it is only mildly damning, not overwhelmingly so.
In coming days, I may attempt the sober but hard-hitting contextual approach I recommend above. Watch this space. But for now, we should neither ignore this nor overhype it, but just quietly and firmly insist that it provide part of the picture of Obama’s real nature.